We’ve all been there. You’re in the midst of an informational writing project. You ask students to search for information. They do a quick Google search, choose the first thing they find, and say, “I’m done”. It’s frustrating, but in an age where information is so fast to find, it’s understandable that they would want an instant answer and be done.
This year, ahead of 5th grade’s informational writing unit, we decided to do an exercise in research by using the book series Two Truths and Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson. Each chapter in the book is made up of 3 stories. Two are truths and one is a lie. The books have a great opening that explains that all of the stories are pretty unbelievable and that it will be a challenge to figure out which is false. I chose a section out of each book to make a copy of. I put them in groups of three so that every table would have two truths and a lie on the table.
For the opening of the lesson, I asked students if everything on the Internet was true. They immediately said no, but I reminded them that even though we say that, so often, we fall victim to something that is actually false. We looked at Jennifer LaGarde’s infographic about identifying fake news so that we could review the importance of knowing the author, domain, and especially triangulation.
I read the opening of Two Truths and a Lie and explained the task at hand.
- In pairs, students would choose one folder to sit at.
- Pairs would read the article in the folder.
- Pairs would use our trusted databases in Galileo as well as do an independent Google search to find evidence to prove that the article was a truth or a lie.
- When pairs felt like they had enough evidence, they could talk with me about what they found.
Things got off to a great start. Pairs opened up folders and read their article. However, when computers opened, things went downhill (at first). Hands started going up immediately because students had found an image that matched an image in the book or they found a video that matched their article. Those pieces of evidence alone were enough to prove something true in several students’ eyes.
It was a great teaching moment because I was able to go back to our infographic and repeat the questions about domain, author, and triangulation. Students often didn’t know who made the video or where the picture came from, so we could dig around and look for that info. It was easier to send students back into our databases or Google because they simply didn’t have enough evidence to prove. Many of them got serious after the conversations and started matching text in the article to text they found in sources. They began showing me that they weren’t just looking at Wikipedia as their only source and were instead using trusted news sites and museum sites.
By the end of our time, most groups had found enough evidence to make their case, and I revealed the truths and lies, which are found at the back of the book. This is definitely not a one time lesson that will solve all of our research problems, but I loved that so many students were receptive to the idea of digging through multiple sources to prove something right or wrong. Now, my hope is that the momentum we gained from this experience will lead us into our informational writing.